Five seasons ago, Kimberley Locke found herself in exactly the same position as Syesha Mercado is in now: voted into third place of American Idol, leaving two guys to fight it out for the title.
Since then she has gone on to have a string of hit singles, a TV career and — fulfilling one of Syesha’s own goals — opened a restraunt.
So it’s lucky for Idol’s latest reject that, here, Kimberley offers her, via OK!, a crash course on how to avoid becoming one of the scores of contestants who finish well, then disappear without trace.
"As long as Syesha does her work and gets out there and puts her and puts her nose to the grindstone, she’ll have a career," said Kimberley, originally from Hartsville, Tn..
"I think you just have to not expect it to be handed to you — I think a lot of people expect that.
"I worked so hard after Idol to stay alive and to stay visible and on the scene.
"You have to stay humble and you can’t become a diva all of a sudden.
"I did a lot of charity work and a lot of stuff for free just to get my name and my face out there."
Kimberley, who finished just behind Clay Aiken and the winner, Ruben Studdard, says that unless the company behind Idol signs you, they wash their hands of you once the season’s over.
"They didn’t pick me up, so basically I was out there on my own," said Kimberley after her concert in New York sponsored by Nature Made Liquid Softgels yesterday.
In her first year after the show, Kimberley, who has now released two albums, one of which went to No. 16 in the Billboard 200, didn’t even have a manager and had to do all the dirty work herself.
"All the contacts that I met on American Idol, I saved their business cards and after the show was over, I called them all.
"And just made contact and said ‘hello’ and reintroduced myself and I got a lot of work from that. That’s key: remember those people that you come across."
"There are pitfalls," she warns. "Teaming up with the wrong people or signing the wrong record deal.
"Getting with the wrong people and letting them waste her time — that could be a major pitfall because there’s a window of opportunity," she said.
"I’m sure Syesha has a lawyer, so right now it is really key for her to become friends with her lawyer: befriend him so he can help her make the right decisions."
The final lesson, Kimberley adds, is that timing is all-important when it comes to releasing an her first record.
"She needs to put album out before Idol season eight starts so that she doesn’t get covered up in the new Idol mania."
Syesha, we hope you’re taking notes!